It seems these two colorful carotenoids are more than just eye "candy"!
Carotenoids are pigments found in fruits and veggies that give them their bright colors. When your parents said carrots were good for your eyes, they were right! Carrots provide quite a bit of carotenoids, mainly as lutein and zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin). Lutein and zeaxanthin are renowned for eye health.
People supplement to ease computer eye strain and also as a preventative against age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) as these two are needed abundantly in the retina, the area where images are formed into what you see. You cannot make these colorful pigments so you'll need a diet high in fruits and veggies and/or supplement to keep your peepers healthy.
So what's all this have to do with the brain?
Multiple studies show yet another benefit beyond vision. A 2012 meta-analysis reviewed the many studies and laid out a strong argument for the relationship between lutein and zeaxanthin levels and cognitive ability in elderly populations. The data analysis showed those with higher levels of these carotenoids scored better on various cognitive performance tests, such as verbal fluency, memory, processing speed and overall accuracy. Populations affected by dementia or Alzheimer's disease were especially low in these nutrients.
Still, the evidence was not conclusive. Was lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation a protective factor against cognitive decline? Or do their levels get depleted with cognitive decline? In a June 2017 published article, researchers from Illinois shed more light on the previous meta-analysis findings.
Cognitive decline appears to start in middle age and the authors noted research done previously was focused on older adults. They commented that if evidence suggests decline starts earlier, why not do a study comparison with younger subjects? Taking a proactive approach to cognitive health would be far more beneficial than attempting to curb decline later in life.
Their methodology involved testing macular pigmentation. The macular is the central visual center of the retina and specifically supported by carotenoids. Typically this pigmentation thins with age and affects vision as well. Then they tested the 60 healthy subjects aged 25-45 on cognitive tests. When they looked at the results of both tests, they found older adults with thicker maculars tested as well as younger subjects in cognitive tasks.
Conclusion? "While some age-related cognitive decline is to be expected in healthy aging," they concluded, "our data suggest that these effects may be less pronounced among adults with greater retinal carotenoid status," or higher lutein and zeaxanthin levels. "Furthermore, these practices may provide neuro-cognitive benefit before the onset of older age, in early to middle adulthood."
So when you're stocking up on Brain Clear ES™ and Phosphatidyl Serine, perhaps Lutein ES™ or Eye Complex with lutein & zeaxanthin would also do well to add to your arsenal in your efforts to maintain brain health and thus be more "brainy".
Source: Am J Clin Nutr 11/12, Front Aging Neurosci 6/17
©TyH Publications (M. Squires). For informational purposes only.